Pistons’ Johnson already aims at LeBron


VIDEO: Stanley Johnson leads the way in the Pistons’ win

ORLANDO, Fla. — The summer league crowd has been looking forward to Monday’s scheduled matchup between Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow.

There’s plenty of intrigue and backstory. Detroit took Johnson with the No. 8 pick in the June 25 draft, allowing Winslow to slide to Miami at No. 10. Did the Pistons make a mistake? Will the Heat rookie seek to prove them wrong?

Never mind that the pair are long-time friends. They ate dinner together Saturday night and planned to take in a movie Sunday and couldn’t care less about the so-called showdown.

Besides, after a silky smooth and effective 24 points and nine rebounds in the Pistons’ 77-69 win over the Clippers on Sunday at the Orlando Pro Summer League, Johnson has his sights set on bigger game than a rookie buddy he’s played with an against about a dozen times.

“Play against LeBron [James] — that means something,” Johnson said flatly. “He is the best player in the league and I want to be the best player in the league too, so I have a target on him. I will keep reaching for that goal. … He is a team player so I have to be a better team player to be on the same level as him. Did you see that Game 6 against Chicago where he had like 14 points and 14 assists and controlled everything? The best players win a lot of games, so it is not about your points or your rebounds.”

But in case anybody is counting, Johnson has plenty of both in the first two days of Summer League play. He came off the bench in the opener and now has 37 points, 13 rebounds and four assists and is shooting 15-for-22 from the field in two games.


VIDEO: Stanley Johnson on his big game vs. the Clippers

He started on Sunday and showed the complete package of skills that had the Pistons rank him as the No. 2 small forward on their draft board and make Johnson the pick ahead of Winslow. He battled through contact to finish strong around the basket, pulled up to nail a 3-pointer and was coolly confident late when he drove and stepped back to nail a short jumper.

“He is a really smart player,” said Pistons summer league coach Bob Beyer. “He is always grabbing coaches and wants to look at additional tape. He wants mistakes pointed out to him. He really is a sponge. He wants to learn everything he can. He absorbs everything.

“I think the thing that’s most impressive it’s the calmness to his game right now. We’ve thrown a lot at him in a very short time and for any player it’s quite the adjustment from college to the NBA. But he has really has grasped concepts very quickly. And he spends a lot of time off the court trying to become a really good NBA player.”

Johnson has not tried to do too much, making simple, effective passes rather than forcing things to happen.

“That goes back to his poise as a player,” Beyer said. “Some guys don’t want the ball in that position. Stanley is starting to demonstrate that he does want that ball. He has confidence in his abilities that’s been kind of an added plus.”

Johnson’s confidence comes off as less swagger than merely being certain of who he is and can become.

“To me, I have no pressure here,” he said. “I’m not out here trying to have the best game of my life. I’m not trying to have the worst game of my life. I’m just trying to be myself. Coach [Stan] Van Gundy tells me, ‘You don’t have to score a point.’ That was his words. ‘All you have to do is play defense and play hard.’ At the end of the day, what he says matters and that’s it.

“I think I should dominate every game, honestly. I’m not gonna sell myself short because it’s Summer League or it’s the Cavs or playing the Lakers. To me, it’s about every game having the same effort. Just keep with that, keep with that and if I can dominate, I’ll dominate. But as long as I give the same effort, that’s all the matters.”

15 Comments

  1. dustydreamnz says:

    In the East I’m picking…

    Cavs/Wizards 1 and 2 seeds.
    Hawks/Raptors 3 and 4 seeds.
    Bucks/Bulls 5 and 6 seeds.
    Celtics/Heat 7 and 8 seeds.
    Pistons/Hornets 9 and 10 seeds.
    Nets/Pacers 11 and 12 seeds.
    Magic/Knicks 13 and 14 seeds.
    76ers 15 seed.

    Much, much weaker than the West.

  2. K-Dash says:

    Great that Lebron paved ways for the young guns. Let them understand it’s a team game. Greatness doesn’t always mean scoring unless you are MJ or Wilt.

    At least noone is saying I want to keep chucking like Mr. Byrant. 6-24 finals mvp.

    Basketball is a team sport. Will be rooting for you rook.

  3. stevec says:

    Pregame scouting reports in the regular season will humble him down

  4. John says:

    Man,

    Ron Artest wishes he was like SJ when he was young. The only comparisons that should be drawn is that the kid can play.

  5. I love that so much.Despight Johnson being 6-7 230-240.His brain make is bigger than anybody in the draft.Plus Winslow.He reminds of Isiah Thomas. Working harder is a talent.To be the best you must be the best.Period understand that at 19.Win or lose that’s how you get better.I see champion in Johnson era. To be great at anything you can not care what anyone say about you period. Because remember more winners than losers. He is a hall a famer if he stays healthy.God Bless

  6. Denidoo says:

    I like his attitude. Seems to have a level head and the right amount of confidence. The game is mental and he has the right approach.

  7. Man says:

    It’s Ron Artest Jr! (Watch the interview, totally talks like him, looks a bit like him too)

  8. OldKGfan says:

    I never heard of Stanley until he was picked 8th… I guess he got game. That stat line is upper echelon even if it was a summer league game. Hey, welcome to the NBA Stanley. Work hard and don’t be distracted by anything. WIN!

  9. sg fan says:

    good to be ambitious… way to go young man. the nba stage is another level. dealing with the seniors in your team is already a hussle, let alone the 82 games or more… good luck

  10. dustydreamnz says:

    Talking a big game, hope he keeps delivering. I like what the Pistons are doing.

  11. robb says:

    lol. ok mvp kid you are a dominator machine, the reality of the regular season will teach you buddy.

    • Lamar says:

      Yep keep underestimating him but you going to be the first person to praise him when he starts killing in the league just do me a favor don’t jump on the bandwagon when he does

    • He knows that this is the summer league. Please follow what he’d said previously.

    • Ferre says:

      he just has alot of confidience, i personally really like this kid and think he’s a steal at 8 in the draft.